AN incumbent public official was shot dead by riding-in-tandem assailants in Barangay Poblacion, Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental Monday morning, April 2.

Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 Director Robert Quenery confirmed the death of Guihulngan City Councilor Paulo Ediso dela Rita Sr. The murder came nine months after he survived an ambush by alleged members of New People’s Army (NPA).

PO3 Jordan Banderas, investigator on case, said there were attempts on dela Rita’s life in 2015, 2016 and 2017, but he survived these incidents.

In July 21 last year, dela Rita was targeted by armed men while he was riding a motorcycle. His aide Michael Jambalos was killed.

After dela Rita reported the incident to the police station, six police officers, including Guihulngan City Police Chief Arnel Arpon, were killed by the rebels.

JB Regalado, the NPA’s Leonardo Panaligan Command spokesperson, issued a statement owning up to the ambush, saying it stemmed from the people’s demand for justice on the alleged abuses committed by the police and dela Rita.

Banderas said dela Rita had visited the police station more than 10 times to report death threats he received since the ambush last year.

“Nadawat niya ang mga hulga sa texts sa iyang (He received the threats on his) cell phone,” he said in a phone interview.

Dela Rita’s last visit to the police station was last week.

Quenery, in a press conference, said his personnel are going after the assailants and he ordered investigators to determine the motive behind the attack, including the possibility that NPA members carried it out.

Negros Provincial Police Office Director Edwin Portento said they are still verifying the reports that NPA members were responsible for dela Rita’s death.

Investigation showed that dela Rita had just left his eatery in Poblacion, and was riding his motorcycle on the national highway when the culprits shot him several times. A loaded .9mm pistol was recovered from the victim.

“He knew there was a threat on his life),” Banderas said in Cebuano.

The assassins, who wore helmets and jackets, escaped. Dela Rita was rushed to the Guihulngan City District Hospital, where he was declared dead on arrival. (KAL)